Co-production and values in museums: with special reference to the production of temporary exhibitions in Britain

Davies, Susan Margaret (2012). Co-production and values in museums: with special reference to the production of temporary exhibitions in Britain. PhD thesis The Open University.



This thesis looks at co-production in museums, specifically how external parties were involved in the production of temporary exhibitions. It explores the different patterns of co-production found in various museum contexts, offers an explanation for the differences based on values and discusses the implications for museum managers. The research explored the topic from a museum management perspective, an interdisciplinary field informed by museum and heritage studies as well as various management disciplines. The central research question was - why does the pattern of external involvement in temporary exhibitions vary in different museum settings?

Over a 15 month period data was gathered from a range of museums in Britain to create 20 case studies. A grounded theory methodology (Goulding 2002; Glaser and Strauss 1967; Glaser 1996) meant that existing work in museum studies, eo-production, project management and organisational culture, informed rather than defined the direction of research. Data gathering and analysis were part of an iterative process which allowed for progressive focusing on the key issues (Stake 1981). Using a typology of eo-production developed specifically for this research the pattern of external involvement was analysed. This established similarities and differences in the pattern of eo-production across the case studies. This analysis found that some parts of the exhibition making process were more open to external involvement than others. It also found that some patterns of eo-production could be explained by particular exhibition variables, e.g. the size of the budget. However, it became apparent that important aspects of eo-production could only be understood by reference to the wider museum context. Hence a higher-level framework to represent the variety of museum contexts, in terms of values, priorities and norms, was needed. Such a framework needed to locate and illuminate the range of co-production documented in the study, be theoretically robust and make sense to practitioners. To this end, the Museum Values Framework, was developed from the work of Quinn and others (Quinn and Rohrbaugh 1981), used to interrogate the data further, and trialed in the field.

This study offers new knowledge on the nature and variety of co-production in museums and highlights the importance of individual, group and organisational values in shaping behaviour in a museum context. The wider implications of the findings for museum management are also discussed. In addition this research makes a theoretical and methodological contribution in the form of the Museum Values Framework. Considerable scope exists to apply this analytic tool to other aspects of museums' work and behaviour.

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